1. Department of Breast Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX;
2. Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.
Among patients with hormone receptor (HR)-positive breast cancer, those with residual disease after neoadjuvant chemotherapy have a higher risk of relapse and poorer survival than those with a complete response. Previous studies have revealed a correlation between activation of cell cycle-regulating pathways in HR-positive breast cancer, particularly cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4 and 6/cyclin D1 signaling, and resistance to standard therapies. Although CDK4/6 inhibition by palbociclib in combination with endocrine therapy has shown potent antiproliferative effects in HR-positive/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative breast cancer, the potential role of palbociclib in re-sensitizing chemotherapy-resistant HR-positive breast cancer is not well defined. We hypothesized that CDK4/6 inhibition by palbociclib re-sensitizes HR-positive/HER2-negative residual breast cancer to taxane-based adjuvant therapy. Using cell counting, flow cytometry, and western blotting, we evaluated the efficacy of palbociclib alone and in concurrent or sequential combination with paclitaxel in parental and paclitaxel-resistant T47D HR-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer cells. The CDK4/6 pathway was constitutively active in both parental and paclitaxel-resistant T47D cells; thus, both cell types were highly sensitive to the inhibitory effects of single-agent palbociclib on cell growth and cell cycle progression. However, palbociclib did not re-sensitize resistant cells to paclitaxel-induced G2/M arrest and cell death in any of the combinations tested. Our results suggest that CDK4/6 inhibition by palbociclib does not re-sensitize HR-positive/HER2-negative residual breast cancer to chemotherapy. Nevertheless, the fact that CDK4/6 activation remained intact in paclitaxel-resistant cells indicates that patients who have HR-positive/HER2-negative residual disease after taxane-based neoadjuvant chemotherapy may still benefit from palbociclib in combination with other regimens, such as endocrine therapies, for adjuvant therapy.
Keywords: paclitaxel, resistance, palbociclib, HR-positive/HER2-negative, breast cancer.